Medicare bulk billing on the agenda

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Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, Wallan Medical and Specialist Centre owners Dr Harsha Aluthge and Lasanthi Aluthge and Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell at Wallan Medical and Specialist Centre on Wednesday. ​

Featured image: Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, Wallan Medical and Specialist Centre owners Dr Harsha Aluthge and Lasanthi Aluthge and Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell at Wallan Medical and Specialist Centre on Wednesday.

Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles highlighted the benefits of increasing Medicare Bulk Billing Incentive payments when he visited Wallan Specialist and Medical Centre on Wednesday.

The Federal Government implemented new bulk billing items with higher incentive payments tripling the amount of existing incentive payments, starting November 1.

Doctors can use the incentive payments when bulk billing all face-to-face general attendance consultations longer than six minutes in any location at any time; certain video and telephone general attendance consultations; and video and telephone consultations longer than 20 minutes with a patient registered with the practice through MyMedicare.

Mr Marles said the incentive was the single biggest investment in bulk billing in Medicare’s history.

“I think there’s no more important pressure that people face in terms of cost of living than access to healthcare which is why we’re particularly focused about that, and tripling the bulk billing incentive is not only going to make it easier for people to come and see their GPs, but come and see their GPs without them having to pay money [to access bulk billing],” he said.

“Increasing the Medicare rebates provides an incentive for GPs not to charge more money over and above what their rebates are, or to keep those fees at the lowest possible price, and that is just so important for a community like Wallan in terms of being able to access their care.

“This is one of the really important medical centres in Wallan in terms of offering bulk billing but be it this or the other five or so medical clinics around town, this is a really important initiative, which will improve the lives of the people of Wallan.”

Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles toured the Wallan Medical and Specialist Centre before speaking on the tripling of bulk billing incentives. ​

Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell said the ‘historic investment’ meant it would be easier for 30,670 children and their families, and 39,231 pensioners and concession cardholders across the McEwen electorate to see a bulk-billing GP.

“This is something that has been so important throughout our region – the shortage of doctors, the inability to get to a doctor [or] to get bulk billing Medicare has been a real struggle for families, so this has been a fantastic announcement that the Albanese Labor Government made … and it means that we are going to have healthier communities with a lot more opportunities. I think it’s so exciting,” he said.

“So many people you talk to here and right across our area, it’s about not being able to go and get to see a doctor but also the cost.

“So people sit there and say ‘I’m sick but I can’t afford to see a doctor’ so they don’t go, meaning their health gets worse and before you know it, they’re in a hospital.

“Also increasing the Medicare rebate was something doctors were screaming for – it hadn’t been lifted for years.

“The former government tried to create a tax, a $7.90 GP tax, but we said taxation on doctors is not what it’s about. Medicare has always been a central point of Labor’s platform for decades, so these things we’re doing are about lowering the costs for people but without putting pressure on inflation because we know that’s the biggest issue.”

Owner of Wallan Specialist and Medical Centre – one of the few Mitchell Shire bulk billing clinics – Dr Harsha Aluthge thanked Mr Mitchell for facilitating the event.

“I never expected that the acting Prime Minister of Australia would visit my clinic. We are so excited,” he said.

“This is a remarkable day of Medicare history. It’s the first time the government has taken significant initiative to increase the bulk billing – they have tripled it and they have made another change called MyMedicare.

“I think everybody knows that general practices are run these days with many hardships. Hard to get doctors, get overseas doctors, other staff and cope with the ever-increasing rents and other issues too.

“All these issues hit general practice owners very hard so this step taken by the government gives us some relief and, from the patients point of view, this incentive helps them to cover their cost because a lot of general practice owners now tend to do private billing or mixed billing because of running costs.”